I’ve run a modest software development outfit I started with two of my best friends for a couple of years now.
After surviving the obligatory rough start, our team grew steadily as more ambitious projects found their way into our whiteboards.
However, as we grew and began hiring more programmers to keep up, we realized that the happy-go-lucky approach to development we had been using up to that point was starting to fall short.
As deadlines began to stack up and get confusing, we mismanaged resources, and delivery dates were suddenly an issue.
Even though we had solid communication, the fact that we were running small independent cells was not working out.
Individually, each team was very successful. But when it came to putting it all together, things kept falling through the cracks.
Eventually, we came to that “No, really. We need to do something about this” moment. And, as programmers often do, our heads turned immediately to software solutions for answers.
Little by little, we began testing, implementing, and discarding different kinds of software in our efforts to tame our cumbersome development process into an efficient, streamlined company you wouldn’t be embarrassed to show to potential investors and clients.
Figuring out how to properly manage projects as you go hasn’t been easy. Most software suites out there rarely do everything you need them to without some third-party plugins to get them there.
However, it is something that every software developer out there, big or small, needs to figure out sooner rather than later if they want to grow.
Hoping that our findings can help other fledgling companies figure out the whole project management thing, here are a few pieces of software we are using to cover our project management needs and a couple of insights on how and why we use them.
ProofHub is one of the most popular project management and team collaboration tools, and for a good reason. With a myriad list of features that help with communication, collaboration, AND task management, it also acts as a centralized location to store, visualize, and manage all project data.
Used by organizations like Taco Bell, NASA, and Netflix, ProofHub is an excellent resource for project planning and data sharing. We primarily use ProofHub to prioritize tasks, view the project timeline, and manage tasks on the go.
It allows us to quickly add and edit tasks and be as descriptive as we assign and delegate said jobs. Additionally, it offers seamless integrations to tools that we use daily, making things a lot more efficient. With a calendar view, table view, and a Kanban board to view and manage tasks, keeping track of activities and teams as a whole becomes easier.
It has helped us streamline our work processes and save time and resources over the past few years. Not only does it help us track all moving parts of a project, but it also helps us keep everyone in the loop with chats, discussions, notes, and more.
We love this all-in-one solution to work management because it eliminates the need for all other applications and seamlessly allows our team to work together.
2. MS Project Desktop
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. MS Project is a staple in the industry for a good reason.
If I had to summarize this tool in a single word, it would probably be “Organization.” The gist of the Project is to give teams a place to write down all tasks necessary for the advancement and completion of projects.
Now, this might strike some as a ludicrous oversimplification, mainly because you can do so much more with this tool, but I find reassurance in simplicity.
Once the information is there, it’s easier to optimize said tasks and keep an eye on things that might not be going the way they are supposed to go.
Which tasks need to be prioritized? What are the time estimates for their completion? Is there a particular segment of development that is running out of allocated resources?
In the beginning, we made the mistake of keeping these things in our heads. And it was feasible because our team was small and worked on linear projects.
I now know that anything beyond that requires your crew to have a cornerstone to keep everybody aware of the current state of resources, budgets, and time frames.
Unlike other office products, Project has a steeper learning curve. So here’s a helpful guide that helped me a lot when I was learning the ropes of the software, and I still keep it handy for reference.
A great application by Atlassian, Jira is a powerful issue and bug-tracking software that also includes project management functions.
There is plenty of good software that serves as an issue tracker. What eventually got us to settle with Jira was their focus on Agile software development. It quickly provides for planning development iterations, reports, and flawless bug tracking.
Anyone with experience with programming will know how vital issue tracking is to get any software to working stages, let alone being “shippable.”
After one of our more significant software projects had us stepping on each other’s toes, debugging the same issues independently, we realized we needed a powerful tool to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
Jira took care of that problem.
4. Ceptah Bridge
Remember I mentioned that stock software rarely does everything you want or need it to do?
At this point, we were getting our workflow and project management in shape thanks to MS Project, and Jira solved our issue-tracking griefs. However, Jira also provided a host of great management solutions that complemented the Project well.
We wanted to take advantage of those, but having two software suites doing the same would have us falling into redundancies and confusion once more. We needed something to take care of our Jira MS Project import woes.
Enter Ceptah Bridge.
Bridge connects both apps seamlessly and takes care of Jira’s and MS Project’s import and export functions, so you can enjoy their strengths without sacrificing the rest.
After we implemented Bridge, a team member could browse Jira and submit project reports, and those changes would transfer back to Project for the rest of us to check out.
It made our pieced-together setup work as a unit. Creating Jira issues based on Project’s task is simply god sent.
Bridge took care of our Jira MS Project import/export data synch needs, but a bigger team faced other challenges.
Remember I mentioned we had solid communication as we started out? That’s easy to maintain when it is just you and two or three other people.
When our team hit the double digits, we had to put tools in place that efficiently kept us all on the same page.
As far as collaboration, communication, and coordination apps go, Trello is definitively my favorite.
It allows for advanced, agile functionality without sacrificing a structured workflow. It is the perfect place to share ideas, make lists, and post quick to-dos in a simple yet effective way.
Effective communication is essential to any task and central to good Project Management, so Trello helps us all be on the same page and interact even when we aren’t at our desks.
The five apps mentioned here form the core support for our structure and complement each other seamlessly, providing the agile workflow environment we need. But more important than that have been the valuable lessons gathered from implementing and learning to use them: Organization, effective problem-solving, coordination, and communication.
These are the essential ingredients for your company’s growth.
Which Project Management Tools Do You Use?
If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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